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8 Urgent Insights on Gen Z that Every Pastor Needs to Know

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              There may be a ministry “seismic shift” headed toward the American church!

              A seismic shift can be defined as sudden or dramatic change that happens in a very short period of time.

              Pastors and other church leaders need to realize that due to the cultural influence of the members of Generation Z, the church may be facing an almost unprecedented change in the way a majority of people in this country look at church programming. Often referred to as “Gen. Z”, this generation is comprised by today’s college-age young adults and current senior high young people. Although some researchers use other time periods, most identify Gen. Z as being born between 1995 and 2010 (for instance see, Generation Z: A Century in the Making, by Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace).

              Gen. Z is a cohort of approximately 65 million people (, and will soon comprise about 40% of the entire US population ( According to one source, Gen. Z will become the largest living generation in American history (

              As researchers and social scientists are reporting, this generation is already incredibly influential, and they are about to make a massive and long-lasting change on every institution they touch – including the church. As one respected youth worker puts it, it’s time to stop “doing Millennial ministry” ( and recognize that a new generation has arrived. The church and church leaders must adapt accordingly.

              It’s important for pastors to understand that members of Gen. Z have come of age in a culture of significant religious and cultural influences. These influences include the mass departure from the church by young adults (see You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith), a dwindling loyalty toward denominational or institutional affiliations (see Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, by James Emery White), a move toward a post-Christian and post-church mentality (see Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World: A Hopeful Wake-Up Call, by Brock Morgan), and a growing number of non-traditional, broken, or dysfunctional households (see Households of Faith, published by Barna Group).

              Much has been written about the general characteristics of Gen. Z (for more information see the bibliography at the conclusion of this article). However, here are five practical insights for pastors and other church leaders to consider as they develop creative and functional ministries to reach and minister to members of Gen. Z.

  • They crave the communication of truth in an environment where they can ask difficult and serious questions.

This is not a generation that will be attracted by entertainment or fluff. They are seeking truth and will respond positively to the clear exposition of Scripture and confident presentations of the Gospel. They are seeking real answers to their most difficult questions. A recent study from Barna Research tells readers to create the space for them to “feel the freedom to ask the big questions”. (See Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon.) This begins by making church services and Bible studies places they feel are welcoming and non-threatening.

This is truly a post-Christian generation. One author puts it this way, “Perhaps the most defining mark of members of Generation Z… is their spiritual illiteracy… They do not know what the Bible says. They do not know the basics of Christian belief or theology.” (James Emery White in Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, p.131.) To reach members of Generation Z, pastors must see that church is more than a once-a-week lecture and worship time. Church programming will need to feature ways to creatively teach Gen. Z solid doctrinal truth with methods that provide opportunities to them to apply that truth to their everyday lives.

  • They are looking to develop strong relationships in a culture of increasingly dysfunctional and broken households.

Gen. Z’ers are more likely than other recent generations to grow up in broken, unstable, or dysfunctional homes. One researcher put it this way, “Churches that want to understand and serve teens and young adults should focus first on true household ministry, and not just family ministry” (Households of Faith: The Rituals and Relationship That Turn a Home Into a Scared Space, by Barna Group). This means that more and more living situations in this culture will be comprised of “households” instead of traditional family units. According to one author, members of Generation Z are growing up with in an increasing number of single-parent homes; a growing number of cohabiting, non-married parents; a rising number of homes with single mothers; and an increasing number of same-sex couples (see Generation Z, by Seemiller and Grace). These statistics should motivate pastors to lead their churches to be a “family” for those in today’s culture from non-traditional and fractured households.

  • Christian members of Gen. Z are looking for ways to share their faith and want to learn how to witness effectively.

Probably somewhat contrary to popular beliefs about 75% of this generation who claim to be Christians and living for God report that they feel responsible to tell others about their faith. (See Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon.) This is a generation that feels very strongly about living on mission. They want to be involved in something that matters for eternity. Churches should capitalize on this renewed emphasis on evangelism by developing creative avenues for them to present the Gospel and share their faith with others.

This generation also feels a heightened sense of responsibility and stewardship. For example, they won’t understand why most church buildings in this country remain unused throughout the week. Long gone are the days of church buildings that feature a large number of small meeting rooms that were once used for a wide variety of age-group programming. This won’t make sense to Gen. Z’ers. They’ll want to figure out ways for churches to use their buildings for outreach functions for the community.

They’ll also be very interested in sharing the Gospel cross-culturally. The world feels quite small to this generation and many of them will be excited about the potential of short-term missions trips, either internationally or to cross-cultural areas within the United States.

  • Churches must utilize technology to communicate to this generation in a culture that is progressively disloyal and over-scheduled.

Members of Generation Z are truly digital natives. They’ve had internet-connected devices in their pockets since they were young children. They likely grew up in homes that allowed them almost ubiquitous access to various digital smart phones and tablets; and they attended schools where teachers gave them internet-based assignments on their own iPads, or Chromebooks since kindergarten or pre-school. They are more comfortable with their digital Bibles than paper copies, and probably use their phones for daily devotions and in-depth Bible study. They also are very likely to fact-check what preachers or Bible teachers say, instead of just accepting what they hear as truth.

Technology is a game-changer for the American church. This doesn’t mean that Gen. Z will reject low-tech methods of communication. In fact, old-fashioned, lecture-style preaching may seem refreshing and genuine to them. Pastors should remember that this generation does not need the church to try to impress them with the church’s technological prowess. They’re quite capable of creating or locating their own quality digital content. However, due to this generation’s busy schedules, it will be important for churches to utilize various means of technology to make sermons, seminars, publications, and other materials available for them to find on their own schedules on the church’s website.

Today’s pastors have undoubtedly noticed that “practicing Christians” are only attending church approximately one Sunday each month ( This trend is very likely to continue with members of Generation Z. Their lives will tend to be quite over-scheduled, with other personal priorities being more important to them than regular church attendance and involvement. Plus, Gen. Z does not possess an innate loyalty to any particular church or church function. This practice will necessitate that pastors employ the use of modern technology to communicate regularly and successfully to them. 

  • Churches should be intentional about developing growing inter-generational relationships and connections.

This generation is being forged by two seemingly conflicting pressures. As mentioned earlier, they are more likely to grow up in households without consistent parental influences, and they appreciate the influence of significant older adults. Their lives have been lined by a litany of coaches, teachers, youth workers, small group leaders, and other caring adults. Of course, churches must develop and institute carefully crafted child protection policies that safeguard kids from sinful adult predators. However, today’s teenagers and young adults will profit greatly from the influence of Godly older adult mentors.

The practice of segregating and isolating young people from other generations has helped fuel their departure from the church following their years in high school. Emerging adults are not likely to commit to a church’s adult ministries unless they have formed growing relationships with a variety of Godly adults in the church prior to their graduation from high school. Churches will need to restructure their programming efforts to balance peer ministries with growing inter-generational connections for Gen. Z.

The American church is indeed facing a seismic shift as members of Generation Z move through adolescence into adulthood. Business as usual will not work. Pastors will need to retool and rethink their approach to ministry programming to be effective with today’s emerging adults. Gen. Z is here!

This article originally appeared:

Select Bibliography:

  1. White, James Emery. Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2017.
  2. (Editors, Barna Group) Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation. Barna Group & Impact 360 Institute, Ventura, CA, 2019.
  3. Seemiller, Corey and Meghan Grace. Generation Z: A Century in the Making. Routledge / Taylor & Francis Group, New York, NY, 2019.
  4. Twenge, Jean M. iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us. Atria Books / Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 2017.

Use What You Have! Ministry in the Days of Coronavirus

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Have you ever read about Shamgar in the Bible?

He was one of the deliverers of Israel, and although only one verse in the Bible is given to his major accomplishment, his story is told to us in Judges 3:31, “Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed six hundred men of the Philistines with an ox goad; and he also delivered Israel.”

We’ll get back to that victory a little bit later. But there is one other passage in the Bible that gives us some more background information about him. Later on, the book of Judges cites “the Song of Deborah”. In one stanza of that song there is also a brief reference to Shamgar. Notice Judges 5:6-7, “In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were deserted, and the travelers walked along the byways.  Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel…”

Certainly, there are some parallels in that narrative to life today. Highways were empty, travelers had to sneak around, and their sense of community life “ceased”. In this time in the history of the nation of Israel the people were hiding due to what one commentator called “raiders” or thieves.

The nation needed a deliverer – and God raised up Shamgar. His name was probably Egyptian in origin and the text tells us that he was “the son of Anath”, which meant that he was perhaps from that lineage and may have been somewhat of a “mercenary” who changed sides to help protect the children of Israel.

This is where the story of Shamgar gets interesting. His weapon of choice in this incredible victory was an “ox goad”. Shamgar used what he had in his hand. The ox goad was a familiar farm implement, which means he was probably employed as a farmhand, working for someone else at the time. This tool was usually a long, pointed stick with two basic purposes. One was to “goad” or prod the oxen into moving through the plowing fields and the other was to sometimes clean the plows from the clumps of dirt and perhaps manure that tended to build up around the blade when plowing.

Shamgar had an ox goad and he used what he had in his hands for God, and God used him to accomplish something very special.

We are living in interesting times. Almost everyone I talk to uses the word “weird” to describe our world’s reaction to the current Coronavirus crisis. Churches have canceled their services, schools are closed, and grocery stores are running out of basic supplies. Church leaders and youth workers are certainly wondering what to do now. What do the times demand of us?

My advice is to do what Shamgar did. Use what you have!

Today we have computers, cell phones, and other means of technology. We have some tools we can use. We have the means to communicate with others – and we can do things with individuals, and we can meet in small groups. We can still minister, and we can still reach out. So, we should utilize what we have to accomplish what God has called us to do.

We don’t need to hunker down. We don’t need to retreat into our homes in fear. Ministry now will demand some creativity, some initiative, and some new looks. But it can still be done.

I’m sure that no one expected Shamgar to win with his ox goad, but he accomplished something great for God.

Like the ending of the Song of Deborah says in Judges 5:31b, “…let those who love Him be like the sun when it comes out in full strength.”

My Top 5 Books From Summer ’19

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Here are some quick reviews of my top 5 list of significant books that I read this summer. Each of these books has helped me think through key issues related to church ministry and today’s culture. I’d love to know what you’ve been reading, too.

  • “I just finished reading, “Generation Z: A Century in the Making” by Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace. This book may honestly be the definitive book out there on Gen. Z. (And, I’ve read several.) Their writing style is easy to read, and their research is extensive and quite thorough. It’s obvious that they have done their homework. They also provide an overview of other generations which sets the stage for how Gen. Z is impacting culture today. I am convinced that every leader should read this book to get a glimpse into how this generation will impact everything about Western culture. We must learn all we can about this generation – which will have more and more of a lasting influence on education, business, and religious organizations. Thanks to Seemiller and Grace for their excellent work.”
  • “This is the book we’ve needed in youth ministry. If anyone has ever asked you about the Biblical basis for youth ministry, hand them a copy of “A Biblical Theology of Youth Ministry” by Steve McGarry. It is grounded and saturated with solid Biblical principles – and McGarry makes a logical case for how those principles apply to where our youth ministries should be focused. This book demonstrates his understanding of contemporary youth culture and the key issues that are confronting the church, families, and the discipline of youth ministry. Chapters six through eight are especially important and potent for all of us to think these priorities (the family, the Gospel, and connecting the home and the church) though for our ministry plans. I highly recommend his book to everyone, from students to youth ministry professors, involved in this essential area of church ministry.”
  • “In a time when voices are predicting the imminent demise of the church – this book, Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon, is a refreshing and encouraging change of pace. This is not the typical “the church is failing our youth” or “the youth ministry experiment has failed” treatise. David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock have taken a different tack. This work instead is a hopeful and reassuring approach. Their research based and Biblically centered style is so much different to what else is being written today about the fate of new generations in the church. As David and Mark would say, “We need Exiles”, and this book proves that statement. Seriously, all ministry leaders should devour this book right away.”
  • “Earlier this summer I read Ron Belsterling’s new book, “In Defense of Youth Ministry” – and found it to be an important read for all youth pastors, youth workers, pastors, and other church leaders. Ron is a strategic voice in the current youth ministry conversation. He is an experienced educator and scholar, but he is also practitioner with a great deal of hands-on experience in youth ministry. I honestly believe that anyone who is interested in the importance of reaching and ministering to emerging generations should read this book and then think through what Ron has presented.”
  • “Glenn T. Stanton, of the Global Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, is a reputable scholar and researcher – albeit one who forms different conclusions. His book, “The Myth of the Dying Church” is one voice that presents a distinct viewpoint than many others who see the “sky is falling” cries of young adults leaving the church and the church is failing because “nones” are leaving the church attitudes. I appreciated his thorough research – and especially his optimism concerning the church. I definitely agree that God is not finished with His church and that our task is to base what we do in the church on clear Biblical principles and yet, adjust to culture to effectively communicate God’s truth to emerging generations. You’ll need to read the book yourself to see how Stanton can look at much of the same research and demographics as other writers and come to different conclusions.”
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